Nixon promises layoffs if budget not changed

Editor's note: This version expands upon an earlier version.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday promised to “reduce staff and services accordingly — including making the necessary layoffs — effective July 1” if lawmakers pass the state’s budget in its current form.

But Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, told reporters later: “There is absolutely no reason for the governor to lay off (employees).

“If he wants to do that, there’s nothing I can do about that — that’s his call. It’s absolutely unnecessary.”

Both the House and Senate are expected to vote today on the conference committee versions of the bills creating the spending plan for the state’s business year that begins July 1.

Nixon made his promise at a news conference late Wednesday morning. He read a brief statement, but took no questions from more than a dozen reporters who had been called to the governor’s office.

Nixon said his job-layoff actions would occur because the compromise budget agreed to by House and Senate negotiators “took the unprecedented step of only funding two-thirds of the fiscal year 2014 budget for the Division of Motor Vehicles — indicating that this was intended to fund only a portion of the fiscal year, cut by one-third the funding for the contract for printing and distribution of Missouri-issued drivers licenses.

“This irresponsible tactic of attempting to fund government in a piecemeal fashion, to be revisited over the course of the year, is not the way we have done business in the past, and is not the way we will do business going forward.”

Nixon did not say where those job reductions and layoffs would be, although spokesman Scott Holste acknowledged it’s logical to assume they would be in the Revenue Department’s motor vehicles division.

Schaefer challenged Nixon’s reasoning: “I think we made it very clear ... in the hearing, that Revenue is getting a full budget for eight months.”

Schaefer noted the budget writers blocked the department’s ability to get and spend some federal money it had been receiving, “that we didn’t know about (and) they wouldn’t tell us before,” but, otherwise, provided the motor vehicle division with “a full, eight-month operating budget.

“And we will ... do a supplemental (funding bill) when we come back in January — and, provided that they are on the right track and the governor is no longer doing the illegal things in the Department of Revenue — we made it very clear we would fund the rest of their budget for the rest of the year.”

At issue is the ongoing Revenue Department practice of scanning birth certificates and other documents as part of Missourians’ application to get or renew their driver’s and non-driver’s licenses.

Missourians’ concealed weapons permits also had been scanned and stored until last month, when the governor ordered that process to be stopped.

Nixon said the Legislature’s final budget bills, with the eight-month funding, “would undermine our strong budgetary framework, and would introduce unnecessary and dangerous levels of uncertainty into the historical budget process practiced by governors and legislatures for decades.”

But the House and Senate leaders have said the battle is about following the law and protecting Missourians from an unresponsive government — not about partisan politics.

“It took us three months to get the truth out of the Department of Revenue,” Schaefer said. “They clearly were not giving us the information we requested, were doing things that are in violation of several provisions of state law.

“We believe that, through the budget and several agreements, we’ve gotten the ability for them to follow the law. And we want to make sure they do that.”

Holding on to a third of the motor vehicle division’s budget should make sure the department leaders don’t “tell us one thing and do something else,” Schaefer explained.

Lawmakers must pass the state’s operating budget by 6 p.m. Friday.

Schaefer said Wednesday there are no plans for the budget conference committees to meet again on any issue.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments